Well, I’m finally over the damn cold and feeling almost 100% now. It was a long 2 weeks and it really got me to thinking about things. How my life is going, how tough it has been to make it here at the end of the world, all the creature comforts I have sacrificed. And after much thought and arguing with myself, I have come to a momentous decision.
The trip back up north brought back a lot of memories. I see everyone living in relative comfort. Nice homes that are affordable. Good food. Plenty of good paying jobs. Life looks pretty easy up there compared to what I have to do here to survive every month. The change of seasons, the beauty of the mountains, it really made me homesick this time. So, I’ve decided after 40 years, it’s time to return to my roots. Sell the boat, and head back to Pa. where I belong. It’s a tough decision and not one I am taking lightly, but given my age and struggles, it only makes sense in so many ways…….
What? Are you fucking crazy? Leave an island paradise for that shit hole? Not in this lifetime. Not in any lifetime. Not now. Not ever.
If there is one thing that trip did, more than anything else, other than get me sick as dog, it proved that I made the right decision back in the 70’s, 1970’s smart ass, to get the hell out of there and come south. That place in central Pa. is about as foreign to me now as the middle east, and about as much fun. I felt totally out of place up there on this trip, a feeling I had when I lived up there too. If I didn’t have family still up there, I would never return. My life here on the rock, and the life people lead up there in the rocks, are at polar opposites.
I wrote a month ago about doing some time travel when I go back up there. Indeed, while everyone has a computer or an iPhone now, it’s still like going back into the 1950’s. Everywhere you go you see the stereo typical family set up with the house, car, lawn, and kids. Living centers around the job, taking care of the house on the weekends, raising the kids, and buying stuff. Lots of stuff. This valley is a retailer’s wet dream. There are shopping plazas all over the place with your typical rundown of national brands. Wallymart leads the pack, followed by the big box home improvement chains, and then the chain restaurants. All of which are busy all the time. Buying stuff is a way of life up there and you are judged by your peers according to what stuff you have and how well you take care of it.
People come to visit you in your house and judge you by how clean your place is, or by your choices in furniture, or how well you maintain the lawn. A new car, required, I think, by law every 5 years, is a source of pride or derision, depending on the make and model. Keeping said vehicle clean and in perfect running condition is simply a fact of life that one must deal with. A dirty car does not cut it in these parts.
At the old neighborhood where my parents lived for many a year, the house they owned has been sold again. It’s not being taken care of properly and houses around the neighborhood are also going downhill. Junk in the yards, grass not cut to perfection. If the old man was still around he would be raising all sorts of hell. Proper lawn and house care was an obsession with him. Every weekend was spent taking care of something around the house. No matter the cost, it had to get done. Many others are of the same mindset. The house they own is central to their lifestyle. It’s the one thing above all other things that they own, that is valued the most. Any perceived infraction by a neighbor, improper lawn care, a dirty window, is something that might bring down the almighty property values, and will not be tolerated. The home improvement stores are packed to capacity every weekend with people coming in to buy more stuff for their homes.
There is very little room for recreation in these parts. Oh, there are the holiday celebrations, the occasional picnic in the summer. The more adventurous head to the lakes in the summer to go fishing. But mostly, life centers around the job, raising the kids, and taking care of the house. If there was one word I would use to describe life in these hills, it would be: boring, predictable, tedious, monotonous, unexciting, and mind numbingly dull. There is no adventure here. Maybe a trip to the big city for a ball game or concert is the highlight of the year. Vacations are spent sometimes visiting around the country but these are the types I have written about who are totally out of their element when they are not in the comfort of their own home. They may come to Key West for a visit or spend a few days dragging the kids around the rat park in Orlando, but all they will do is bitch about the heat and the bugs, and wonder why anyone in their right mind would ever want to live in such a place. And that is where I come in.
Trying to ‘splain to these people how I live, where I live, and why I live so, is like trying to ‘splain quantum physics to the cats. They look at you with a dumb stare on their face, and then want to know when we are going to eat. I talk about living on a sailboat, something that is completely alien to them.
“You live on a boat? How do you go to the bathroom?”
“Live on an island? That’s silly. Where do you get your food?”
“You don’t own a car? How do you drive to Wallymart? WHAT? There is no Wallymart there? How do you survive?”
They just don’t get it. They take it for granted that everyone in the country lives a proper middle class lifestyle and those who don’t are either filthy rich or dirt poor. And everyone knows I ain’t filthy rich. So why would I live down here in such a hot, humid place, where only the rich can afford to do so.
It was downright funny at times because everyone who saw me was totally and completely amazed, that I had a suntan. I tried to ‘splain that the sun shines brightly nearly everyday in Key West, and when one is outside doing kayak trips or walking around, one does tend to get a tan. But they could not fathom that anyone could have a tan in May. After all, it’s still in the late throes of winter. Nobody except the rich who go to Florida in the winter ever have a tan in the spring. And even then, at the end of summer, you have what is called a “farmer’s tan”. Just your arms, lower legs, and neck get tanned because you still wear too many clothes.
Every aspect of my life down here was met with awe and confusion. Boat living, kayak guiding, app coding, and minimalism. All foreign concepts. While everyone would nod in silence as I regaled tales of encounters with manatee and dolphins on the water, or shark encounters, or talk about the nekkid people on Duval during Fantasy Fest, or the rather eclectic groups we have living here, I got the feeling that in the back of their minds they are thinking, “He’s nuts. Totally and completely crazy. Why would anyone live like that in a place like that when everything anyone would possibly want is right here in this valley.”
Maybe I am nuts, and mostly crazy, but I wouldn’t trade this life for returning back up there for anything. I don’t begrudge those who live up there in the way they do. But damn. There is no sense of adventure. No longing for something more better. They have found their little comfort zone and refuse to go beyond it. But just damn. There is sooooo much to see and do in this life, and the idea of just sitting back and admiring the cut grass doesn’t seem to fit in with how I want to live.
I will go back yet again. I have too. I have family up there and at some point, if something bad happens, I will need to take care of it. And they did raise me, feed me, and house me. I’m still close to them. But not the area. It holds no fond memories for me. I did get homesick, but for the island and my little floating piece of paradise. Humble though it may be, I am quite happy here. More adventures are in the planning stages. Looting and pillaging is on the horizon. More travel, new islands, and more exotic places will be visited.
There is just too much to see and do. Wasting time living in the past is not what I want. It should not be what you want either. Get out there and explore. It’s an amazing planet. Go experience it.